Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg

 Did you ever have a familyIn this sorrowful and deeply probing debut novel, literary agent and memoirist Clegg (Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man) delivers a story of loss and its grueling aftermath. The story opens with an unimaginable tragedy: a Connecticut house is consumed by fire in the wee hours before a wedding. The bride’s mother, June, is the only survivor. Everyone else—Lolly, June’s daughter, with whom she had a strained relationship; June’s womanizing ex-husband, Adam; June’s ex-con boyfriend Luke, 20 years her junior; and Lolly’s fiancé, Will—all die in the blaze. But where was June when the explosion occurred? Clegg pieces the mystery together through the voices of his characters. There’s Luke’s lonely, scandal-courting mother, Lydia, who shoulders secrets about her son; 15-year-old Silas, a stoner who was the last to see Luke, with June, the night before he died. And there’s Rebecca, Kelly, and Cissy—caretakers of the Moonstone motel in Moclips, Wash., where June holes up for nine months after the fire and wastes away. The conclusion of the family’s narrative is foregone: due to the fire, everyone ends up dead or alone. But it’s Clegg’s deft handling of all the parsed details—missed opportunities, harbored regrets, and unspoken good intentions—that make the journey toward redemption and forgiveness so memorable. (Sept.)

Originally ran in PublishersWeekly (June 29, 2015)

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